03 Jul 2019

Tourism stepping up environmental action

Posted in: Toitū Together

Tourism operators stepping up environmental action

Tourism is one of the cornerstones of the New Zealand economy. International and domestic tourists combined spend over $107 million each day, with tourist numbers steadily increasing over the last few years.

Most tourists want to experience the outstanding beauty of New Zealand’s landscapes. But what they might not consider is the impact their visit has on the environment they’ve come to admire, and our national carbon footprint.

The climate impact from the tourism industry is significant, and includes accommodation infrastructure (particularly energy use and waste), and emissions from transport getting people to, from and across our islands, as well as everything in between.

The great news is that the tourism industry itself recognises the issue and is taking steps to ensure that tourism operators provide a sustainable experience for visitors, and works together to protect our natural environment.

Organisations Stepping Up

House of Travel Auckland City | Orbit Travel | carboNZero certified organisation

House of Travel Auckland City first achieved carboNZeroCertTM certification in 2008, because they “strongly felt the responsibility to do our part in managing our environmental impacts, which led us to embark on this carbon management and sustainability journey.” Since then they’ve reduced their Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 12.71 tCO2e despite the growth of the business, through reducing corporate air travel and best practice fleet management.

YHA New Zealand | carboNZero certified organisation

YHA New Zealand provide a network of accommodation for travellers and have also used the carboNZero programme to focus their environmental reduction efforts where they can have the most impact. “Before we were clear about our emissions sources, we spent a lot of time on things like the size of our rental cars and water consumption, not knowing that these things would not majorly affect or reduce our overall emissions”, says Maureen McCloy, Corporate Services Manager at YHA New Zealand. “We now know that the bulk of our emissions (about 80%) are from electricity and gas consumption, and that’s where our focus needs to be.”

“We have installed solar energy in our Wellington, Aoraki Mount Cook and Franz Josef hostels, and a geothermal down-bore in our Rotorua hostel, which have all had positive results. For example, at Aoraki Mount Cook, we have saved approximately 30% on our energy bills and we no longer run out of hot water!”

Auditor Louise Li at the Wellington Zoo

Wellington Zoo are also committed to taking a leadership role, and see going public with their carbon reduction journey as a way to further their impact. “As so many people from our community visit Wellington Zoo, we are in a unique position to showcase sustainability and inspire our community to take action, to reduce their individual ecological footprint.”

Tourism Sustainability Commitment

Tourism Sustainability Commitment

Another bonus to reducing the industry’s environmental impact is meeting increasing market demand: tourists are asking for sustainable experiences and products. Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA), represents tourism businesses across New Zealand and recognise the opportunity, developing the Tourism Sustainability Commitment which aims to lead the world in sustainable tourism. More than 1000 businesses have now signed up to the Commitment, which includes eight industry-level sustainability Goals and fourteen Commitments to aid individual businesses to achieve sustainability in the broad sense.  A key goal for the signatory businesses, is to measure, manage and minimise their carbon emissions.

They’ve made reporting against the commitments public, and earlier this year released the first year’s progress report against baseline and targets. It’s great to see they’ve made it transparent, which will help hold the industry accountable.

Interested in doing your bit? Here are three simple things individuals can do to decrease their holiday impact:

  1. Choose to use like-minded organisations. Check if travel, tour or accommodation providers are looking after their own environmental impacts. There are many organisations that have carbon or environmental management plans. Even better if they are third-party certified like those in the CEMARS, carboNZero or Enviro-Mark programmes.
  2. Plan well, to avoid unnecessary single-use plastic. Travelling is a great excuse to justify getting that coffee in a takeaway cup or grabbing a convenient bottle of water as you get fuel. But if you take your reusable cup and drink bottle on holiday with you, you can easily avoid extra waste.
  3. Figure out your own travel carbon footprint, and offset it. Did you know we have a travel calculator that’s completely free to use to work out the carbon emissions from that plane ride took last month, or that road trip you’ll go on at the end of the year? Check it out. You can then choose to offset the trip by purchasing carbon credits.

We have many great tourism businesses in the Enviro-Mark Solutions family . Why don’t you check them out when you next plan your holiday? When you do, don’t forget to mention you chose them because of their certification, their commitment to reducing their environmental impacts.